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  • There are many potential benefits of college, from boosting your earning power to growing as a person.
  • Whether it’s the right investment for you depends largely on your goals.
  • College may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. A trade school or certification program can also lead to a fulfilling career.

Deciding whether or not to go to college is a big decision. Sixty percent of Americans believe that a college degree is worth the time and money, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Bipartisan Policy Center. The truth is that every person is different. Earning a degree isn’t for everyone, but there are potential benefits of college, big and small, that could make it a worthwhile investment.

1. Greater job opportunities

One of the biggest potential benefits of college is that it can lead to better career opportunities. That could carry a lot of weight, especially in a tight job market. A college degree, which may include an advanced degree such as a master’s degree or doctorate, could give you the skills and credentials you need to meet specific qualifications to work in your chosen field. This may also give you a leg up over the competition.

College also allows you to build and expand your professional network early on. Internships can help you establish connections and put you in the path of someone who could eventually help you land a job later down the road. The same goes for alumni associations.

2. Higher earning potential

The median annual wage for recent college graduates with four-year degrees is $52,000, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, while the median annual wage for those with only a high school diploma is $17,680 less than that. Of course, a college degree on its own doesn’t guarantee a high income. Your course of study, level of expertise, career trajectory, and location can all impact your earning power. However, some college degrees could set the stage for higher earnings. The career site Indeed puts the following college majors at the top of the list:

Major Median base salary per year
Computer science $70,000
Engineering $64,381 to $68,438 
Information technology $64,008
Nursing $58,928
Finance $54,900
Mathematics or statistics $54,018 to $60,000
Biomedical engineering $52,814
Economics $52,000
Accounting $52,000
Business $47,850

3. Employee benefits

In addition to a salary, many employers offer employee benefits, which come in all shapes and sizes. A college degree doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have access to all of them, but it may give you more leverage to negotiate for better benefits. That might include:

  • Retirement benefits such as a 401(k) plan, which may come with an employer match
  • Stock options
  • Health insurance
  • Health savings account
  • Tuition assistance
  • Commuter benefits
  • Mental health benefits
  • Flexible work arrangements (remote work is more common among those with a bachelor’s degree or higher)

4. Personal and professional growth and development

The chance to grow as a person is another benefit of going to college. Heading off to school for the first time brings built-in opportunities as you expand your social circle, try new things, explore your academic life, and begin managing your finances. College can also help you build the knowledge base, job skills, and expertise you’ll likely need to land a good job and develop in your career.

5. Access to school resources

Whether you attend a community college, state university, or private college, you’ll likely have a wealth of resources at your fingertips. That can include:

  • Academic advisors
  • Seasoned professors
  • Alumni
  • Mentors

Resources like these help college students feel supported as they move through young adulthood and beyond.

It’s important to remember that college isn’t for everyone—and that’s okay. From trade schools to certification programs to entrepreneurship, there are other paths to a meaningful career. Understanding the benefits of college can help you make the best choice for you.

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